Why, Lord?

Bridgewater Pllaza

Yesterday, the good Lord gave us a lovely day in these parts. Quiet, late-summer sunrise. A perfect day for a drive… maybe up I-81 through the beautiful “Valley of Virginia…”

Punctuate all this loveliness with killing three people, including yourself, and gravely injuring another? We could ask and ask and ask, and we won’t understand why someone would do that. I wish he hadn’t.

On a lazy summer afternoon at Bridgewater Plaza, you can watch the parents buying bags of popcorn to feed the schools of carp that congregate by one of the piers. Then their children stick their fingers into the fishes’ toothless gullets. They scream and laugh. It’s the kind of hillbilly fun that people in Franklin County, Virginia, really love.

Why let it all be disturbed with the report of bullets at sunrise, Lord? The last thing any of us ever wanted–that our home would become international news like this. Why do You allow this?

Shortly before she died, St. Monica said to her son Augustine, “Remember me at the altar of God.”

The best thing to do today: pray for the dead at Mass. The best thing to do tomorrow: same thing.

At Holy Mass, we encounter the Power Whose hands hold the living and the dead. When we pray with love, that He would help them–the dead and the living; when we pray at the altar that He would help them, He will.

At Holy Mass today, St. Paul tells us: “Stand firm in the Lord.” Because we stand firm, we can ask Why? He will unfold an answer, we trust Him enough to believe that. We ask because we believe He will answer.

Christ crucified is going through all this, right here with us, on these lovely late-summer Virginia days full of grief.

Crybabies

Leonardo da Vince Madonna and Child
Madonna and Child, Leonardo da Vinci

“We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children.” (I Thessalonians 2:7) Here St. Paul expresses the kind of love that the Church has for us, Her children.

We look, of course, to our Holy Father, and to the supreme magisterium of the Church, for guidance–when it comes to how the Church best loves as a mother. The Magisterium teaches us what the Church’s love involves by way of succor, and by way of discipline. We don’t love well if we love more indulgently than Holy Mother Church, or more severely. Those above us, the Pope and the bishops, teach us exactly how indulgent, and how severe, to be.

As for ourselves, let’s focus for a moment not on the mother, but on the baby.

The infant at the breast has no subtlety when it comes to communication, and no pride—no delusions whatsoever of independence. When the child is hungry, he or she simply… cries. Caterwauls, desperately.

That’s us. The crying babies. We can’t be too proud to cry. We can’t be too proud to acknowledge that we need the Lord to help us, that we need the grace which the sacraments give us. We need the sacred ministry of the Church Christ established more desperately than babies need milk.

Our gospel readings at Holy Mass today and tomorrow offer us a perfect warm-up for the passage we will read this Sunday. I’ll have more to say about the business of our Lord condemning the Pharisees then.

But we find the key to understanding Christ’s blistering condemnation of the Pharisees, I think, by putting ourselves in the place of the baby at the breast.

The evil of pharisaism lay not in any of their ceremonies and customs themselves, many of which were perfectly laudable. What the Pharisees lacked was: unpretentious dependence on the merciful love of God. They forgot that they were babies at the breast. Let’s remember that we are.